Gnome, the desktop environment favoured by the likes of Ubuntu Linux, is getting an overhaul. For users this means a number of things, including a new way of interacting with files and a new way of launching and managing applications.
The existing Gnome desktop, version 2.x, is now close on eight years old.
There have been many changes along the way but the underlying design was launched in June 2002.
During that time many things have changed and computer users face new challenges, including greater volumes of data, new form factors (think netbooks) and cloud computing.
With users swamped with information, the old models of interacting with information are in desperate need of an overhaul. KDE, the other popular Linux desktop, is already well-advanced down this road, and now Gnome is about to do the same.
For non-Linux users, who may be unfamiliar with the concept of “desktop environments”, Linux is different to Windows and Mac OS X in that there is not just one desktop interface available for users to enjoy, but many different options, including Gnome and KDE.
One of the major changes in Gnome 3.0 is the new Gnome Shell. This “shell” is meant to be a replacement for the traditional panel on Gnome. Instead of a panel drop-down menu for launching applications, Gnome 3.0 will have a new “overlay” which will be home to launchers for the most commonly used applications. The Shell will also contain a search feature for finding documents and applications, and recently used files.
To the right of that is a visual presentation of the various open applications and desktops to make switching between them easier. This is not unlike certain features in Compiz which give the same abilities. The benefit is that unlike Compiz the Shell is built into the Gnome desktop.
Using the Gnome Shell users will be able to launch applications and manage applications already running.
The other major change in Gnome 3.0 is the Gnome Activity Journal. The Activity Journal combines two different technologies to make it easy for users to manage data.
The Activity Journal uses Zeitgeist to store information on the files, websites, contacts and so on that a user worked with. These can then be searched so that users are able to go back on things they have done.
The Activity Journal also uses Tracker to get information on files including their current state and tags etc. Tracker provides a meta information manager which makes it easier to find files on a hard drive.
The idea of the Activity Journal is to log actions and record meta data that define the various applications and files used. Returning users can then scroll through their recent files, or files related to a project or websites they have visited based on any number of criteria. Activity Journal will hopefully give users a better way of searching through their data than simply using the hierarchical filing system most often used.
Gnome 3.0 is expected to be released in September this year. It will most likely find its way into mainstream Linux releases from October onwards.
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